Thursday, 6 February 2014

Camille Claudel

Among all of Rodin's sculptures, the one that appeals to me most is the so-called Cathedral Clasping Hands. This is a sculpture of two hands of two persons about to clasp. A quick google search about why the word Cathedral features in its name shows that it is a symbol of hope. If one is not a devout Christian or if one is not religious at all, one might think that a Cathedral has nothing special to do with hope, or at least not the only thing. Be that as it may, this sculpture easily is the most stunning one of his works precisely because it conveys such a positive feeling - of hope, desire, lust, affection and sublimation. Rodin was a true creator - brilliant, methodical, full of life force, charismatic - and hence it is not too surprising that one of his favourite students would have such a bonding with him. Camille Claudel was an extraordinary student. She was talented and knew that too well, consequently perhaps somewhat haughty. Rodin was an arrogant teacher. He initially did not care too much about this hot-headed young girl. After all, he would get many such students, the best in Europe would come to him. Rodin was rumoured to have taken to bed all his female students. In the case of this particular student too, the bed did intervene, but that is just a small part of the communion they shared. The meeting between the minds of Rodin and Claudel was a communion of the best of the minds. Their creativity soared. The hands clasped.

This 1988  Bruno Nuytten film captures the genius of Claudel, her professional and personal relationship with Rodin and her emotional disturbance greatly. The film opens with Camille picking up the right kind of clay in a suitcase from inside a pit at the middle of night. She needs that clay, there cannot be any compromise on it, whatever the hour of the day, whatever the difficulty. That is the kind of dedication and love she has for her sculptures. Very rarely one sees someone so much in love with her activities. This love gets mixed with the love for her mentor and we get a story of love, hate, confusion, compassion - everything that life is made of. 

It is truly painful to see a genius suffer. In the case of Camille Claudel, the society fortunately did not get a chance to interfere too much. She was a strong personality. She also had the support of her father. Her sufferings happened because of her interactions with Rodin. She spent a great deal of her later years in an asylum. 

Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu put up superb performances. One had heard about the book on Camille by Reine Marie Paris, but without this film, I would not have known about the working of two great minds. 

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